I LOVE a roast. I often cook one at home, but as Mr P&P and I both regularly work well into the night on a Saturday, we often find ourselves stumbling sleepily to the nearest pub for our weekly fix.
The most popular entry on my blog is The Brighton fry up challenge, an absolute beast of a post where I put over a dozen Brighton eating establishments through their paces in a quest to find the best fry up in town. Once that was over we needed a fresh challenge so moved on to roasts.
We tested out over 20 pubs and restaurants in Brighton (some with repeat visits and numerous photos) so I decided to break it down into a number of posts which I’ll put up over the coming days and weeks. Some I forgot to make a note of the prices, apologies, but I would say as rule of thumb, expect to pay around the £10-£11 mark, and more often than not lamb is more expensive. Another thing to bear in mind is, the earlier you visit the better the food.
Some of these places I haven’t visited since last year so it may be that they have improved or got a new chef, if you think I’ve made an unfair call then please write in the comments box at the bottom.
Brighton Source magazine also did this a few years ago and you can read their post here.
The Thomas Kemp – 5/10
The first on my hit list was the Thomas Kemp pub, at the bottom of the road from my old flat and had always been a safe bet in terms of consistency, I’d had much higher expectations of this roast than what you can see pictured above. Overcooked, bone-dry meat, Aunty Bessie Yorkshire pud and waterlogged veg. The roast potatoes were actually very nice if a bit small, the teaspoon of creamed leeks were lovely as was the swede and carrot mash, there just wasn’t enough of either. We asked for extra gravy as they’d skimped on that as well, it was OK, definitely a hint of bisto (or similar) though. I would have been even more disappointed if I’d paid more than the £8.95 price tag.
The Walmer Castle – 7/10
Just around the corner from Queens Park, but just out of the way enough for it not to be impossible to get a table at peak times, this is a place I’ve revisited again and again so the mark out of 10 is an average of my two most recent visits- this may or may not be very fair as the top one is cooked by a different chef but oh well. Depending on the day this pub offers up to ten different types of meat, often with a few “unusual” options thrown in. Worth noting that they serve roasts a lot later than a lot of places too.
The top photo is of the best roast I’ve had there- mutton. We actually went there after experiencing the worst roast in Brighton (to be detailed at a later date and also here) so I may have viewed it more favourably as a result of this. The meat was unbelievably tender, I loathe the phrase ‘melt in the mouth’ but it pretty much did. Above average roasties but definite room for improvement, yummy Yorkshire pud which gained extra marks for being homemade and a good selection of roasted and boiled veg which were done to a turn. All in all, very impressive and set me back around a tenner.
The second two roasts were eaten on the same day (by me and Mr P&P not just me!) and for me, were a classic example of ‘jack of all trades, master of none’- it was OK, nice even, just nothing to write home about. It’s not often that I criticise a meal for having too much on one plate, but in terms of veg there really was. I counted a total of 9 different veg which were ranging from (too) crunchy to water-logged and too mushy. The roasted carrots were nice as was the Yorkshire and gravy, but the pork was very disappointing, no crackling or even an attempt at it really, an incredibly tough underside and a middle which didn’t come close to tender or melting as you would expect of a piece of pork belly. Mr P&P was thrilled by his lamb shank though. Again mine was around the £10 mark and slightly more for the lamb.
The Lion & Lobster – 7/10
This is a tricky one to call as if you’d asked me at the start of last year (when this photo was taken) I would have said it was my favourite place to eat a roast. Fast forward 6 months and I would describe it as incredibly average. I gave the above a 9/10 but the next two roasts (which sadly I have no photos of) I had were 5/10 so am going to average it out as 7/10. In my opinion it’s either that they changed their chef or they knew just realised that they’re going to be rammed out every Sunday regardless of the standard of their roast so they’ve become complacent. In the above the meat was tender (but no crackling), a good selection of well cooked veg and a lovely Yorkie. The sides cost extra but were well worth the extra few quid. The next times I returned, the price had gone up, the portion sizes and quality down and those lovely sausages wrapped in bacon had been replaced by a single (poor quality) sausage. Such a shame. I did see someone else rhapsodising on Facebook about a roast they’d had there recently so maybe it’s on the up again. If you’ve eaten there recently and think I’m being too harsh, please comment below.
The Royal Oak- 8/10
This place (other than the eventual winner) was Mr P&P’s favourite*, I liked it too but I got some really duff roast potatoes (sorry, should have taken a close up picture), there wasn’t enough gravy and I have a real hatred for those deep fried vegetable peelings that a number of places feel the need to scatter over a perfectly good roast- WHY BOTHER!?
They’d run out of pork so I went for the beef option and I was not disappointed, it was rare, juicy and extremely tender, the best beef I had throughout the whole challenge in fact. Good selection of green veg, creamed leeks (my fave) and carrot and swede mash too.
* We were all set to make a return visit a couple of months ago but Mr P&P happened to be walking past on his way back from the gym when he saw a guy he knew who said he worked there. His exact words were “I would invite you in for some food mate but it’s SHIT”… needless to say we haven’t hurried back.
The Shakespeares Head- 4/10
I remember posting the top photo on Facebook the day I ate here and someone commenting “Who cooked this, Guy Fawkes?”… my sentiments exactly. Having heard rave reviews about the roasts at this pub as well as eating delicious sausage and mash here on a few occasions, I had high hopes, which sadly, were not realised. I can’t speak for the lamb as an extremely hungover Mr P&P hoovered it up in a flash, he said it was “OK”. My two thick slices of beef which was fatty and cooked medium/well done. Cremated roast potatoes which were rock hard inside and pretty much inedible. Stuffing which was OK but a bit meh and an industry standard selection of slightly overcooked veg. The Yorkshire was homemade but was sadly, the consistency of a prawn cracker (something you are going to hear a lot throughout this series of posts) a real pet hate of mine. The best bit of it all was the gravy, meaty, thick, delicious and a generous-sized portion. I believe it cost around the £10 mark and the lamb was £12- this was last year though so prices may have increased since then.
The Mucky Duck- 7/10
This one really did split the vote right down the middle, Mr P&P and I went with a friend of ours Josh, he and I both had the pork and Mr P&P the lamb (as always). I REALLY enjoyed mine, Josh said it was OK and Mr P&P said his was “shit”, I pressed him as to why but that was all I could get out of him- the mark out of 10 is an average of all of our opinions. I’ll focus on mine as I didn’t try the lamb.
As you can see there’s a generous sized piece of textbook crackling which was an immediate thumbs up from me. The Yorkie was large, homemade and really doughy (in a good way) and it also came with a large slab of delicious herby stuffing. I can’t actually remember if the cauliflower cheese cost extra or not but if it did it was worth every penny. There was a reasonable selection of well cooked veg and although they didn’t have a fresh from the oven crunch to them, the roasties were still passable as well. All in all very satisfactory.
The Bell- 6/10
Based over in “deep” Hove just behind the big Tesco, this place is a bit off the beaten track to get much passing trade so was fairly quiet when we visited with Mr P&P’s sister & boyfriend.
I went for the pork option and my overwhelming feeling was MEH. It was OK, nothing about it offended me, it was just a bit school dinnery. The point it got for having cauliflower cheese as standard was immediately deducted for the overdone, shop bought Yorkie which fell under the “prawn cracker” heading.
I didn’t try the lamb or chicken but the latter looked like the best option to me as it had a big slab of stuffing and a sausage- I don’t recall it being free range though, booooo.
I ate the whole thing and it came in at under a tenner but I won’t be hurrying back.
The Hartington- 4/10
I really REALLY wanted this roast to be good. The pub is literally two streets away from where we live and is never overly busy at all, sadly, it was not to be.
I’ll start with the positives, the beef was nicely cooked, as was Mr P&P’s lamb, The large chunk of butternut squash was a welcome change, it just would have been nice if they’d bothered to scoop the seeds out. The biggest negative was the creamed leeks, they were like curdled vomit, so, so disgusting, VILE. There was something highly suspicious about the roast potatoes too, although fluffy in the middle they were also neon yellow, I couldn’t bring myself to eat them at all- Grim. Needless to say, we won’t be returning.
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Check out part #2 and #3 of the challenge to see who won. Where do you like to eat a roast in Brighton? Have you tried any of the places above more recently and completely disagree with my ramblings? Post your suggestions/arguments/comments in the box below and I promise to respond.